Big Wind Eager To Build In New Mexico

If you build it – transmission, that is – renewable energy development will come.

That seems to be the rule these days, borne out recently in Texas and now proving to be the case in New Mexico, where SunZia Transmission has announced First Wind Energy has signed on as an anchor tenant for the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

new mexico wind

image via Wikimedia Commons

SunZia is trying to get 515 miles of new transmission built that would connect central New Mexico with the large population centers of Arizona, where it could also hook into transmission to California.

“Wind is one of New Mexico’s valuable energy resources. If SunZia can resolve its siting challenges, First Wind plans to accelerate the development of this project in Central New Mexico,” Kurt Adams, First Wind’s executive vice president & chief development officer, said in a statement.

First Wind is eyeing up to half the planned capacity of the new line –1,500 out of 3,000 megawatts. First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne told us the company couldn’t outline any specific plans it has for new wind power in New Mexico, but said it had “a number of projects in very early stages of development” in the state. “Transmission issues are critical for developing renewable energy in New Mexico and we are hopeful the line could be built to deliver clean, renewable power from New Mexico projects,” he added.

Earlier this summer we wrote about a plan for up to 1,200 megawatts of new capacity in Torrance County, an hour or so southeast of Albuquerque. From what we could gather, it looked like Iberdrola was planning to do a first phase of development of about 300 MW.

We noted in that story that transmission has been a stumbling block to further development of the New Mexico wind resource. “We need transmission lines to get that electricity to markets in other states that need it,” Jeremy Turner, executive director of New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, told the Albuquerque Journal last year. “It’s a real bottleneck.”

According to the SunZia developers, a final environmental impact statement was issued by the Bureau of Land Management in June, and a final record of decision is expected next month. “The issuance of this decision will culminate nearly 5 years of environmental study and examination of the project,” SunZia said.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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